Cleaning up programs that Add/Remove won’t remove

September 5, 2008

Have you tried to uninstall a program using the Windows XP Add/Remove facility (Start > Control Panel > Add or Remove Programs), but it just won’t go? The uninstall appears to go through correctly, but there are remnants of the program left on your computer because they are still listed in the Add/Remove programs list. No matter what you do and how many times you try to uninstall them again, you can’t get rid of them from this list. Sometimes you’ll get a message that they can’t be uninstalled but you’re given no reason why.

Invariably they are still there because there’s a registry entry or two that didn’t get cleaned up properly when you uninstalled the program the first time (NOTE: This is NOT your fault—it’s up to the software and operating system manufacturers to delete all files properly when you tell it to uninstall a program, and it’s their responsibility—and your pain—if they fail to do so).

So how do you get rid of these entries once and for all, and clean up the registry without actually going into it and hacking around and possibly damaging something irreparably?

You use Microsoft’s Windows Installer CleanUp Utility. You can read information and warnings about this utility, and download it, However, it is no longer available from this Microsoft Support page:
http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;290301. but you may find it on the internet somewhere. Please read the update and warning message below. If you find it and install it, make sure you ONLY select the program you want to get rid of from the Add/Remove Programs list when you run it, then click Remove. It cleans up those errant registry entries for you.

This utility has got me out of a bind a couple of times—first when I couldn’t uninstall remnants of a very old version of Microsoft Money, and more recently when I couldn’t uninstall remnants of Acrobat Reader 6 updates.

A handy little tool to have around. Though it doesn’t address the bigger issue of software manufacturers not developing clean uninstall routines.

Update and warning (30 April 2011): John commented that this utility is no longer  available from the Microsoft Support page above. And it isn’t. Microsoft now have a note about that:

This article previously contained a link to the Windows Installer Cleanup utility (MSICUU2.exe). If you were directed to this article to solve a problem installing a product other than Microsoft Office, please contact your software manufacturer for installation support on the product. …  While the Windows Installer Cleanup utility resolved some installation problems, it sometimes damaged other components installed on the computer. Because of this, the tool has been removed from the Microsoft Download Center. The Fix it Solutions in this article provide the ability to fully remove Office 2003, 2007 and 2010 suites without damaging other Windows components.


  1. This worked great. I was given other ways to remove error smart but they did not work. This site had my problem fixed in 5 seconds. Thank You for the help.

  2. sounds good but i only have a choice of 4 microsoft programs – not the game i want to fix :S

  3. Dude! Awesome tip and worked so fast AND it’s a Micorsoft utility AND I didn’t have to fiddle with the registry. Thank you.

  4. Just FYI…I’m a Dudette! ;-)

  5. Hello, I have a quick question. I was trying to uninstall/delete a game off my laptop (zoboomafoo creature quest). When I went to uninstall it I got a error message telling me that the uninstaller for Zoboomafoo Creature Quest was no longer working. So, I was wondering if there was another way to remove this program from my laptop. I figure “we” don’t play it, why have it? Thank you for your help and your time!

  6. Has this link changed? It now goes to instructions for removing MS Office products.

    I was uninstalling Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro and my laptop locked up. I can’t delete program or run it.

  7. Hi John

    It looks like it has. There’s a notice at the beginning of the KB article that tells you that they’ve now removed the link to that utility. I’m sure you can probably find it on the internet somewhere…

    I’ll add an update to this post.

    Thanks for letting me know!


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